Health Minister Acknowledges Illegal Drug Purchase While in Private Sector
Monrovia – Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah hit the ground running Tuesday as Liberia’s new Minister of Health, following a lengthy and controversial confirmation battle.
Report by Willie N. Tokpah – [email protected]
Taking office Tuesday, March 27, the new Minister alluded to taking calls from folks who probably sell drugs intended for the counties, illegally to private hospitals or clinics.
“People called me and say I have drugs because I’m coming from the private sector and they will call me and say I have drugs from Gbarpolu.”
“Now, I am at the Health Ministry, you will not call me and say I have drugs for sale from Gbarpolu,” she stated when she delivered remarks at her taking over ceremony.
The Minister added: “Believe this, when I was in the private sector, this is what we had, but now I’m coming in the public sector, I know all the loopholes. I have the telephone numbers of all the sale persons,” Dr. Jallah said.
Dr. Jallah attributed the illegal act to problems within the supply chain management and other areas within the Ministry, including last mile.
She promised to fix.
“One thing we hear all over the place is drugs, drugs. Right now, we have a supply-chain problem; we have last mile problem, we have drugs moving from here to here and arrest of trucks. There are so much going on in that particular area,” Dr. Jallah revealed.
The Health Minister expressed hope that her team responsible to order and handle drugs in Liberia will put a halt to the illegal act that she once played a key role in.
Before her confirmation, she had faced strong criticism from the Consumers Association of Liberia (CAL), who accused her of selling expired drugs to patients at her health center.
The CAL called on President George Manneh Weah to withdraw the nomination over her clinic’s alleged involvement in sale of expired drugs.
Quizzed about Dr. Jallah’s clinic involvement in sale of expired drugs to patients seeking medication, the former Managing Director of the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority, David Sumo, was doubtful on confirming the allegation.
But Mr. Sumo yet confirmed the seizure of expired drugs from various sectors including government entities during his tenure.
He said it was difficult to record all of the agencies that fell short to the sale of expired drugs.
“Well I cannot speak to that in my official capacity because I am no longer there. When I was there, several institutions were booked for sale of expired drugs or drugs nearing expiration.”
“There were several institutions, even government-run institution; those documents are there; they are with the human resource office.”
“The situation may have happened several months back and I do not have hands-on information, because I have left that facility, Mr. Sumo said.
The Health Minister was also faced with serious rift leading to her confirmation by the Liberian Senate.
Following her appointment by President George Weah, the family of the late Pastor Desiree Fahnbulleh appealed to the Liberian Senate not to confirm Dr. Jallah until “justice” was served over the death of their family member.
The family accused the appointee of being culpable for the death of their relative.
Lawmakers on one occasion cut off Dr. Jallah’s confirmation hearing as a result of her failure to give the true story over the death of late Pastor Desiree Fahnbulleh who mysteriously died at her private health center, the Women of Hope Health Center in Paynesville.
She expressed regrets over the death of the Mrs. Fahnbulleh, saying “I like to extend my deepest condolences to the Fahnbulleh Family and to all those who the families who members have lost their lives, including the people that lost their lives in Ebola.”